When it comes to net neutrality, conservatives are absolutely clueless.
Earlier this week, President Obama came out in favor of net neutrality, thus regulating the internet like a public utility.
But just hours after he made his comments, FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler told a bunch of internet company executives that he won’t cave to pressure from the White House, and that the FCC is an “independent agency” that can make its own decisions.
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That was music to the ears of corporate-owned lawmakers and conservative commentators, who are making net neutrality out to be this terrible thing that kills competition in the marketplace and that censors what Americans can and can’t see on the web.
As usual, the corporate right is doing a whole lot of fear-mongering, but not much else, because when it comes to net neutrality, conservatives are just plain wrong.
Take Fox News’ Stuart Varney and Andrew Napolitano for example.
On a recent episode of Varney and Co., Napolitano said that President Obama, “wants to take the choice of buyer and sellers out of the market.”
Varney chipped in and said that President Obama is seeking, “to regulate the internet,” which prompted Napolitano to say that the entire idea of net neutrality “is Orwellian.”
Varney and Napolitano are both either deeply misguided or simply liars.
The whole idea behind net neutrality is a free and open internet. It’s the notion that we should all have equal access to the internet, and shouldn’t be forced to pay more for certain types of content.
It’s the idea that internet giants like Comcast and AT&T shouldn’t be able to charge us more if want to watch a movie on Netflix or a viral video on YouTube. They can charge more or less to us based on usage and speed, but not based on the content of what we’re watching or reading.
What’s Orwellian is a future without net neutrality, where giant corporations have the power to dictate what you and I can and can’t see on the internet.
Conservative talk show host Bryan Fischer also has no idea what net neutrality really is.
On his radio show Monday, Fischer voiced his support for Sen. Ted Cruz, who earlier in the day had tweeted out that net neutrality is “Obamacare for the internet.”
Fischer then went on to falsely claim that net neutrality keeps internet service providers from offering faster internet speeds to Americans.
That’s completely false.
Under net neutrality, and under President Obama’s plan for it, Americans will still be able to buy whatever speed internet package they want. If you want a connection as slow as a snail, you can have it. If you want a lightning-fast connection you can have it, and your provider can charge you whatever the market will bear.
The only thing that President Obama’s proposed net neutrality plan does is prevent internet service providers like Comcast from blocking or slowing down websites that Comcast doesn’t like or that are owned by rival companies.
Glenn Beck is also misinformed when it comes to net neutrality.
On an episode of The O’Reilly Factor, Beck told Bill O’Reilly that, “Net neutrality – what it is, is they say you can’t – it’s basically the Fairness Doctrine on the internet.”
First of all, the Fairness Doctrine was established back in 1949, and said that news broadcasters had to provide opposing points of view on the news and on controversial issues. It’s basically what kept networks and programs from becoming Fox News.
Unfortunately, the Fairness Doctrine came to a screeching halt under Reagan when he suspended it in 1987.
Net neutrality is completely different from the Fairness Doctrine. Net neutrality doesn’t let the government dictate what’s on the internet, and, similarly, it doesn’t let internet service providers control what you can see on the internet.
Finally, consider this: While Republican lawmakers and conservative commentators are bashing net neutrality and spreading all sorts of misinformation about it, an overwhelming number of conservative voters actually support it.
A poll by the Internet Freedom Business Alliance found that a staggering 83 percent of voters who identify themselves as “very conservative” are in support of net neutrality, and don’t want internet service providers like Comcast and AT&T to “influence content” online.
Meanwhile, a separate poll by the University of Delaware that asked if Americans “favored” or “opposed” allowing broadband providers to charge website or streaming video services extra for faster speeds found that 81 percent of those polled were opposed to the idea.
Two things are clear.
First, Americans are overwhelmingly in favor of net neutrality and a free and open internet.
And second, conservatives are completely clueless on the issue.
Computer scientist Vinton Cerf, who many argue is one of the fathers of the modern-day internet, has said that a world without net neutrality, “would fundamentally undermine the principles that have made the internet such a success.”
If we want to keep the internet a success, we must fight to protect the right of every American to have equal access to it.
It’s not too late to have your voice heard. Call your member of Congress, reach out to the FCC, and tell them that Americans have the right to a free and open internet. And that means “Yes” to Title II “common carrier” status for the internet, the best and easiest path to net neutrality.